I have attended all four of these conferences, but I was taken by Brother Steven J. Lund’s message about our “broken culture.” He has served on the Young Men’s General Board since 2015 and has rich experience as ward Young Men’s president, as an Area Seventy in the Utah South Area, president of the Georgia Atlanta Mission, stake president’s councilor, bishop, ward mission leader, high councilor, elders quorum president, and as a missionary himself.
He opened his remarks by saying that he is proud to be a Boy Scout and of the Scouting program. He, of course , is “proud of the Aaronic priesthood program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which incorporates everything good about the BSA … I’ve been a part of every program.”
Our youth are provided with countless opportunities and other good programs to do. They have sports teams that have cultivated a reputation for excellence, and if you try to bring them to mutual with the offer of basketball in the gym on Wednesday nights, then you’re going to lose. We’ve got to have excellent programs as well.
—Steven J. Lund, Member, LDS Young Mens General Board
“Let there be no mistake about it. In your stake and my stake, in your ward and my ward, there is a broken culture. The barbarians have assailed the gates, torn down the walls and have swarmed the grounds with irrepressible force to replace our 14 and 16-year-old program with basketball.” He reflected on his own Scouting saying to his Scoutmaster: “I see what happens when we turn 14. We go off to become [Venturers] and play basketball, and I’m not going to do that. I love Scouting, let me stay in Scouting until I am 18 years.” But true to the plan, he started seeing things differently and by the time he turned 14, he was ready to go off and play basketball like the rest.
Then, he went on a mission, came back, got married and his ward made him the Venturing leader. He had high hopes for his young men after arranging for an army aviator and a helicopter pilot, who were going to teach his priests ground school so they could be ready for their pilots’ licenses when they turned 16.
“And the response I got? ‘That’s not what we do in this ward. We play basketball.’
“‘Well, surely you see this opportunity?’ ‘No.’ There was no moving them. I could not have moved the culture that had been inundated onto those kids on my own; this broken culture.”
He asked how many of us had seen the same thing or something like it. Then, he explained that with the men’s mission age moving to 18, “we need to start training them earlier.” This means that mothers, Scout and Priesthood leaders will all have to start acting differently “to change the culture of the Church to preparing them for the MTC as an active part of their lives at 8 years old, and 9, 10, 15, 16, etc. Once they’re 18, most of them will be going out on missions.”
He told of a bishop who said, “Listen, we’ve got a problem in the mission department. I keep sending these kids out from my ward, and they’re coming home early. They’re returning after two weeks, two months in, with this wild look about them. These great kids are coming back broken, and the missionary department has got to do something different.”
Culture is a conglomeration of things that move together and act together, and how a culture changes is a very difficult thing.
In time management we teach: if you don’t get control of yourself first, identify what’s important to you first, and then take that into your organization, then your organization will suffer because you are suffering as a human being. It starts with the human being.
—Hyrum Smith, BSA Council Officer
He said that we do need to change something, but it is not the missionary department. “We need to change the way we are preparing our young men,” he said and went on:
Let’s not kid ourselves; we’re trying to change a church culture, one where kids have seen their big brothers just kind of go to a lag pattern that they don’t get out of until they land in the MTC. That’s been going on for generations. To try to change that is going to require work. It’s going to require aggressive change if anything different is going to happen.
The second thing … is that it’s going to start with us. If, as a leader, we’re going to change the behavior and culture of our youth, if we’re going to fix the broken culture, then we’ve got to change the way that we view and do things within that culture.
If we’re going to fix the broken culture, it probably necessitates a call to repentance of us, the leaders of this program that have continued to let this go on for generations.
Lund promised that we will “solve this problem, because we’re throwing at it the most irrepressible of all powers, and that’s the priesthood.” He said that each Priesthood leader would go back with an inspired response to the problem of older youth in Scouting. He suggested that with 18 as the mission age, age 17 is the most critical of the 10 years we have boys in Scouting. The next is age 16, but these are some of our “least effective years in terms of influencing our young people,” he said.
During the Boy Scouting years we do pretty well, getting many young men on the trail to Eagle, which he says leads to better missionaries. But, he explained that when they turn 14 to 18, something happens; this is when they need “the most attentive help and where, perhaps, they get the least.”
To address this, the current Young Mens General Presidency feels leaders need to do three things in response our this broken culture:
View these three segments to see what you can do to help the culture in your ward improve. Is it broken? What will you do?